Ogun West APC senatorial ticket not for highest bidder, says Gboyega Isiaka
Three times governorship candidate in Ogun State and All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka (GNI) in this interview with MUYIWA ADEYEMI explained why he is seeking to represent Ogun West people, also known as Yewa in the Senate and dismissed allegations against him by Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, representing Lagos West, who is also contesting for Ogun West ticket.
You have always aspired to be governor of Ogun State, why are you contesting for Senate this time?
REPRESENTING your people at the National Assembly is still part of the call to service and my decision is a reflection of the reality on the ground now. The reason I was aspiring to be governor was to offer myself for service to my state and because if God has blessed some of us with exposure, knowledge and certain capacities, and we refuse to get into the arena of politics, we would leave it to people that are not so endowed, or those with ulterior objectives and the result will be there for all to see.
Politics is not something I wanted to do ab-initio; I got into it by virtue of being invited in 2004 to serve in the administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD), to manage the state’s investment and contribute to the economic management. After a while, and from the vantage position of my office, I realised the inherent challenges of the people and the quantum of work that is required. Importantly, I saw first-hand, the value that can be added to matters of development through the governance process; so I knew politics was a veritable way to contribute to humanity.
Secondly, after realising the developmental gap in the area where I come from, that is Yewa in the Ogun West district of the state, despite the potential that abounds there, I was further convinced of the need to give it a try. That informed my decision to aspire for the governorship seat then. But this time, however, we at Governor Dapo Abiodun’s team, believe he has done creditably well within the time and resources available to him. He deserves a second term, which I consent to and fully supports.
I then thought to myself that the knowledge I have amassed going around our environment severally in all my years of the contest and coupled with all the capacities in me; must not be left dormant. I can still be of service to my people hence my decision to represent my people at the Senate by offering people-centred representation and using that platform to enhance the dignity of our people.
There are many contestants for the Ogun West Senatorial seat. Why is the senatorial contest tougher than expected this time around especially within your party?
That is the nature of politics and democracy and it is about capacity and numbers. I think for us in Ogun West, I agree that it is a tight race, different people might have a different perception of this, but I can ascribe it to the character and the capacity of the aspirants in the race. From the last count, I think we have three; the incumbent, Senator Tolu Odebiyi who is seeking a re-election, a three-time Federal House of Representatives member, Hon. Abiodun Akinlade and my humble self who has been on the gubernatorial ballot three times. However, I learned there is also a serving Senator in Lagos, who has played politics for over 20 years in that state and now wants to move over to Ogun State.
For me, I have swum in the ocean of governorship where I traversed the 236 wards in the state, so I do not consider it a difficulty to deal with 59 wards for the Senate seat.
People are saying the Ogun West matter is a bit complicated because the assumption is that whoever gets the Senate seat may have the advantage to succeed Governor Dapo Abiodun in 2027, Is any merit in this?
That may appear as a reasonable assumption but it remains an assumption at best. There are lots of factors that determine how each electoral cycle plays out. Many things will happen between now and 2027. What is important now is that there is going to be one senatorial ticket in the 2023 election, and as a person, I am interested in that particular ticket. I am doing everything legal and right to get the ticket. What happens in the future will be left in the hands of God.
One of your co-aspirants, Senator Olamilekan Adeola also known as ‘Yayi’ said he tried severally in the past to work together with you, especially during the 2019 elections, but you rebuffed his efforts. What will be your reaction to this?
This is laughable really and unfortunate also. Somebody mentioned it to me and what I said was that maybe Senator Yayi was quoted out of context because there is no way he would say that to me personally. I do not think he can say that to my face given what has transpired. We have in times past had communications, facilitated by respected persons from our district; and for me, I did not relate with him on the basis of whether he was a genuine Yewa man or not, that is left to other persons to pursue. On good faith and brotherly invitation, I have been to his house once, for a Christmas party in late 2014 and to his office in Abuja as well, but he has never visited me at my house or office. The closest he has been to me was when he attended the burial ceremony of my mother in Imeko, which a lot of people from all over the country attended.
In 2015, when I was in the PDP and eventually picked up the gubernatorial ticket of the party, Adeola wanted to contest for Senate and then he went back to Lagos afterwards, one of our younger ones called Gbenga Ekunola approached me that since Yayi seems to be promoting Ogun West for Governor, he was going to talk to him to support us in the election. Afterwards, I and Yayi flew together to Abuja one of those days; we even sat side by side on the flight. He promised heaven and earth that he was going to support me in the interest of Ogun West. Gbenga called me later to affirm that Yayi was, indeed, going to support us. After that promise, there was no single discussion again and we didn’t get any form of support from him for that election and that is why when people talk today that Yayi is promoting the cause of Yewa, I shudder and ask them where was he in 2015 and who did he support?
That election was between me, a Yewa man and an Egba man but he looked away. The patriotic thing would have been to support the candidate from Yewa, which he didn’t do. He is reputed to be a man of means but what was his contribution to our cause in 2015? As for the 2019 election, we got talking again and formed an alliance between both parties. We set up a 20-man team, ten on each side, who started working out the modalities for the alliance. The team was meeting and the effort culminated in the Ogun West Public Dialogue programme, which was held on May 1, 2018. We pledged to work together. I was in the ADC while he was pursuing his ambition in the APC. It was agreed that whoever got his party ticket would get the support of the other aspirant. We met once contrary to his statement that it was thrice after that event. We met at Protea Hotel in Lagos. One of the closest persons to me at the time who has now moved over to his side was at that meeting, and should be able, to tell the truth about the conversation.
Afterwards, I reached out severally to him so that he can honour the spirit of that dialogue and all hands should be on deck for a singular Yewa candidate since he had returned to Lagos again for a second time. I called him no less than 15 to 20 times, and on this particular day I got him, we agreed on a Lagos meeting and on the said day, I was on the road from Abeokuta to meet him when he suddenly called in to say he was heading to a meeting in Abuja! That was how that meeting was botched and all efforts by me and other persons to reach him proved abortive.
The next thing we heard was that he was now supporting the current governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun; whereas, before then, we were already in high-level discussions with some of his people because there was a basis for it, which was the Ilaro dialogue. It is therefore shocking when I heard he granted an interview where he alleged I refused to work with him. A Yoruba News outlet quoted him saying that I said “A ti fi Oro le Yayi”. I would never say such because I don’t make unguarded statements. I challenge him to name the person who told him I said so. Even if he heard anything like that, given that we had been meeting and had interacted on a few occasions, why didn’t he ask me if I made such statement?
The process is being heavily monetised, do you have the financial muscle to deliver?
To the extent that is reasonable, I will say an emphatic yes. Ogun West is not for sale, so we are not necessarily looking for the highest bidder. We are looking for the best man, who will do reasonable things. I am the best person ready to do impactful things for Ogun West senatorial district. If there is any other person that wants to go and buy people and throw monies all around, the people can at least decipher it and will do the right thing; but it’s not as though, they are looking for the highest bidder.
How would you rate your chances of securing the APC ticket for Ogun West senate and how do you think the party can conduct an acceptable primary election considering the heavyweights involved. Again, a co-aspirant claimed that you have never been a part of the progressive block and you are just coming into the APC, saying others have always been in the party all along. How do you think this affects your chances?
We are ready for any mode of primaries. It depends on what the party leadership wants to do. Direct, indirect or consensus, I am ready. My only issue with consensus is that we have to be sure that the people that are going to sit down to consider the consensus option will be truly fair. We have been seeing strange things in our senatorial district this season. A particular supposed aspirant has been going around to conduct one programme or the other and what you see is our leaders and party excos that are supposed to be unbiased and be fair in their assessment, going around with this individual, endorsing him and signing communiqués all over the place. How do we have confidence in such a process if these people are to be the ones to choose? If you want to go through the consensus road, the question is, what are the criteria and who are the people that will make it up, so that we can all assess the fairness of these people. For the other two modes of primaries, whichever one is taken, we will go for it. We are all working hard to ensure that we have the best decisions.
Now, about the progressive block, well, just like my boss, the former governor of Ogun state Otunba Gbenga Daniel will say, “how exactly do you define a progressive?” There are two main parties in this country. There are others around, the one to the right and others around the one to the left, but at the end of the day, there are two main parties. In terms of crisscrossing, how many people both at national and state levels can you really say have not moved across platforms? Maybe very few people! Yes, I got into politics through a government of PDP. There were issues and our group left the party. From then on, we have found ourselves on platforms that best aggregate our realities.
Governor Dapo Abiodun contested in the PDP at a time. The one before him, Governor Ibikunle Amosun won the election on the PDP platform at a time and at some point affiliated with ANPP and CPC before berthing in ACN – now APC. Governor Gbenga Daniel, who is now in the APC won the election with the PDP after leaving AD; and was with Labour Party at a time. Senator Lekan Mustapha contested election with Labour Party at a time.
So that is the nature of our politics. It may not be really nice, but then it is our reality. So if anyone has the luck of being in a state where one party has been ruling since 1999 and he benefitted from that system, he should not come to brandish it or label others as not being progressive – as though that is what guarantees good governance and performance.
Anybody that is bringing that to the fore now is playing to the gallery. The APC that we have today is a conglomeration of new-PDP, ACN, CPC, part of APGA and other individuals. How many of those would you call truly progressive and truly non-progressive. Maybe somewhere down the future, we would be able to have a line that is fully demarcated.
What is so special about what you want to bring on board as the Senator representing Ogun West?
The first thing is the knowledge of the people. With all due respect to other contestants in the race, everybody has their strengths and weaknesses and I acknowledge that. Among the contestants, nobody is as close to the people of Ogun West as I am. I’ve always been here. Not only was I born and schooled here, but I have also been involved in the politics of Ogun West since 2004 and never left our people for a day. So, in terms of knowing the people and being closer to them, I am the aspirant to beat.
Secondly, I contested for governorship thrice and during that time, I went to the nooks and crannies of all the 59 wards in Yewa-Awori land no less than four times each. That means I know the people and the people know me. I understand their desires, wants and aspirations. I know the environment and have studied the developmental gap and know what to do when I get to the Senate in terms of facilitating federal government (through various MDAs) projects and initiatives for Ogun West communities. The people can relate to me and I can’t abandon them. One of the aspirants, (names withheld) was in one of the areas in Ogun West just last week. He spoke to the people, but could not even wait to take questions from them for some hideous reasons; and left there after a few minutes. Is that the type of person that wants to represent the people? Thirdly, my passion for Ogun West did not start from political matters. As a student of the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, I was the President of the then Egbado Students Association. We conducted seminars, career talks and other initiatives, using our pocket money to do that. So, the love of the people has been there from the onset. It wasn’t politics that brought us to know our roots or the fact that we are seeking votes. We have always known our roots from day one.
One of the things I did when I was MD of Gateway Holdings, was, one day we were going to Ilaro and I learnt we were going to have an event at the Oronna Hall and I was asking if it was the same Oronna Hall that I had been hearing about in the 1970s when I was still in secondary school. At that time, I had never even developed an interest in politics, I was managing the investments of the state then, so I asked what if we put a hall here, won’t it attract investment to the state; and we put a hall in Ilaro. We wanted to make the place a Park — like an amusement park, so there can be some activities going on there.